Things My Parents Taught Me

“My question is about your parents, because they obviously did something really right when it came to teaching you how to be you. I am raising two girls and my goal is to give them the tools to manage themselves on a daily practical level and to know themselves, I hope to show them how to be truly in touch with who they are, to always follow their instinct and to learn how to really “listen” to themselves. So Gala, what valuable tools did your parents give you? What values, insights or lessons did your parents pass on to you? What part did they play in shaping you into the individual who thinks outside of the box, follows her intuition and has the practical know how to make her dreams happen?”

I’m not perfect, & neither are my parents. I read this email aloud to my father & he was flattered, but he said that he thinks very little of how I am today has anything to do with him or my mother — he knows how much change I’ve been through & the amount of effort I’ve put into turning myself into the sort of person I am today. I used to be very different! (Read: goth, cynical, nasty, insecure, negative, miserable.)

…But I think he’s just being modest. My parents did, of course, teach me many lessons that have been immensely valuable to me. Here are a few of them.

Being able to talk to other people is so important! If you can’t tell them when there’s a problem or if you’d like to change something, you’re really heading for disaster. Other people can’t read your mind & it’s not their job to, either — it is absolutely your responsibility to communicate your needs. You can’t blame other people for not delivering what you want if you haven’t told them! My relationship with my parents was always pretty open, & while I shut down a bit as a teenager, there still wasn’t a lot that I didn’t tell them. They were always very cool & accepting, which helped keep the doors of communication open. If there’s no fear of persecution, there’s no reason to clam up.

Your integrity is the most important thing
It really, really is. As they say, once it’s gone, it’s gone, & you may never rebuild your reputation. Be careful with it, think about what you’re doing & pay attention.

My parents weren’t perfect
My father has always been really keen on telling me that he isn’t perfect — that he has made mistakes, & that he doesn’t know everything. I think one of his beliefs is that a lot of children rebel because their parents paint themselves as saints, & when their offspring discover that that isn’t the case (or even close), they get pissed off & rebel. Hard. My father didn’t want that to happen in our family, so he was always keen on emphasising the fact that his opinion was no more important than anyone else’s. This attitude coupled with the fact that my parents always treated me like an adult meant that I never felt deceived by them, & so I never really “rebelled”.

Working for yourself is the only way to truly be in charge of your destiny
From the time of my birth onwards, my parents always had their own businesses. My mother owned a clothing boutique & my father owned a hi-fi business, & so to me, that was normal. It made sense to have your own business — while the risk lay solely with you, all the benefits did too. I think I was always subconsciously filtered a message that working for other people means that you rely on them, that you have far less freedom & that it was really a sub-optimal position to be in. I always knew that one day I would have my own business, I just didn’t know what it would be. I feel like having that as a valid option helped shape my view of the world, & of course, founding iCiNG has been one of the greatest learning experiences of my life thus far.

Reading is fun
I am so, so fortunate that my parents instilled a love of reading in me early in life. My father used to take me to the library every Saturday morning & we would come away with shopping bags full to the brim! When we went home I would basically go to my bed, sit there & work my way through the stack. Then we would repeat the process the following week. Reading has always been hugely enjoyable & comforting to me, & I am at my happiest when I am leaving the library with a whole lot of books to devour. I know a lot of people who didn’t read much when they were young, & it seems like if that’s the case, you never really get as much joy from books as someone who has been reading them since the dawn of time. I think that’s a shame, since reading can be so enriching.

You have absolute responsibility for your life
In our household, there was always a strong action culture. What I mean by this is that complaining wasn’t really tolerated. That might sound a bit harsh, but it just wasn’t something that any of us had any time for. If you had a problem, you were expected to deal with it &/or fix it, the sooner the better. While I haven’t been perfect about it, this is an attitude I have maintained as much as possible, & it has served me well. It helps prevent me from stagnating or getting locked into negative patterns. I think it’s really important to feel that we each have the means to solve our own problems — it’s empowering & allows us to move through life with more acceptance of change.

It’s important to be different
My parents both own their own businesses, & were very aware of the fact that in order to thrive, you need to have a point of difference. Both their businesses were successful for this very reason. My parents are pretty eccentric, too, & as long as I’ve known them, they have been pretty unapologetic about that. When I got to the age where I started experimenting with clothing & style, at about 13, they were really cool & supportive. The only thing they wouldn’t let me do is leave the house wearing black lipstick (in retrospect, it was a good call!). I would go into the city in my goth garb (all black, stripey stockings, eye of horus make-up, you know the drill) with a pair of silver angel wings strapped to my back & they encouraged me — they were proud of the fact that I was different & brave. Usually when I did things that were weird or a bit strange, they would just laugh with me. That was awesome: it taught me that it was okay to experiment & try new things. I have a very strong sense of myself, & I’ve never been worried about following trends or doing what other people did, because being my own person was never been presented as a “risky” or scary thing.

Be generous
You just should be. A world full of selfish people doesn’t bode well. If karma is the only thing that motivates you, then sure, be generous because you know it will come back to you. But we should all be generous, regardless of our circumstances. If you can’t be generous when you perceive yourself to be “poor”, you never will be. The typical reason people aren’t generous is because they have this huge feeling of lack — like there isn’t enough, & there never will be. That feeling remains, regardless of how much money you have. Besides, generosity isn’t always about money. Often being generous with your time or knowledge or relationships is worth much more.

You can never be too encouraging
This goes hand-in-hand with being generous. People need encouragement & love & support — without it, it can be hard to get anything done. My parents always encouraged me, almost without exception, & it gave me great faith in my abilities & huge ambition. It makes sense, really: if the people around you act as if life is unfair & a trial & like there’s no point in bothering, then why would you?! Conversely, if your family or friends tell you that you can do anything if you put your mind to it, then you’ll feel much more naturally capable. I remember regurgitating this fact (“you can do anything you want!”) on the playground at approximately age 7. My best friend at the time scoffed & said, “What, like flying to the moon?!” It was hard for me to explain it at the time but I knew what I meant — it just goes to show that what we’re told at a young age really does stick with us & influence us hugely.

I think those are the major life lessons my parents have taught me — at least to date. I’m sure in a few years I’ll be able to come up with an entirely different set! What positive things do you think your parents taught you, & how have those lessons helped you so far?